Extending stimulus preference assessment with the operant demand framework

Shawn P. Gilroy, Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University.
Jodie A. Waits, Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University.
Cassie Feck, Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University.


This study extended earlier research on stimulus preference (SP) and reinforcer efficacy (RE) using the behavioral economic concept of elasticity. The elasticity of demand for different items can be used to simultaneously compare RE across stimuli and schedules of reinforcement. Highly preferred stimuli were identified via SP assessments and evaluated using progressive-ratio reinforcer assessments. Reinforcers were then evaluated across the ranges of elasticity in individual reinforcer evaluations. Results indicated that schedules associated with the ranges of elasticity (e.g., inelastic vs. elastic) corresponded with rates of the targeted behavior (i.e., work) and these trends were consistent with behavioral economic predictions. These findings encourage further inquiry and replication of operant demand methods to identify potential boundary conditions for stimuli identified using SP assessments. Discussion is provided regarding the efficiency of reinforcer assessment and the utility of schedules found to exist in the elastic and inelastic ranges.